The death of the British Newspaper, the News of the World, this week, opens not only a debate on ethics, but also a deeper one regarding the whole social media of news and news gathering.
Fewer people today than ever actually read a newspaper. Most people I associate with get their news via Sky, the Internet, or iPad. Yet, for many the actual feel of a newspaper is still the one that gives them that kinaesthetic buzz. You can see that whenever you are in an airport lounge or on a train.
Yet, for a long time now, newspapers have not been serving their two key customers very well either: Firstly, advertisers; What have they done in the past 30 years to improve the advertiser’s ability to reach its target market and track the results of that interaction? For a long time, advertisers have been paying more than their fair share for unclear results.
Secondly, the actual readers themselves. For 30 years, the process for creating content hasn’t changed (assigning journalists to write specific stories, and allowing limited space for letters to the editor from readers). But readers today want to choose which journalists to follow, comment on articles they read, add their own bits to articles and receive content most relevant to them.
The first on-line paper that allows instant reaction to news by their readers and shares those comments with other readers instantaneously is going to reap up-time rewards.
Newspapers have some of the greatest journalists and social commentators on their payroll. In the main, they have strong brand awareness and loyal customers. And yet, bit by bit, they seem to be destroying these assets, by not changing with the times.
This pool of knowledge is being undermined and slowly strangling the way that news is disseminated. Even internet-based news channels are failing to take advantage of this growth in consumer power, not understanding the real needs of us readers, who can find out information at the touch of a button, seconds after it becomes reality, leaving conventional newspapers anything up to 24 hours behind.
Peter Druker once said that the biggest challenge for executives is that they focus on today’s problems instead of tomorrow’s opportunities. If the newspaper world doesn’t wake up to this fact, they will quickly wither and die.
As managers, we need to assess what we’re doing with our teams and identify if we are keeping up with the times and the opportunities that exist. If not, we will be left behind as surely as the world of the newspaper is going to be.